Blogging, Bucket List, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Happy Hump Day, Piece of Cake

My One and Only #AtoZChallenge

The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do was to stay away from you, not to hold you close to me every minute of the day.

Dw7b20H.jpg

I love you deeply, but lord knows, you don’t make it easy. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

The A to Z Challenge – V is for Violin

This is a love story of a different sort. Last year I discovered my love for the violin.

It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. From the moment I laid my hands on its body, I wanted to make beautiful music with it. I’d soon find out it wouldn’t be quite so simple as that.

I love everything about it, but it is the most difficult thing I’ve ever attempted, to try and make anything resembling music with my hands, a bow, and four strings. There’s so much more to the violin than I ever imagined.

Angle. Pressure and weight. Force. Technique.

Most times I can get a decent sound from it, if I don’t think too hard, but that’s the trick. I work at just feeling the music, letting it flow through me, but there’s something missing.

If it were easy, I’d be better by this time, one year and counting. If it were so simple, I’d have gotten farther by this point. If I didn’t adore the violin, I’d have taken the easy way out and given up by now, saving myself the pain and frustration.

You don’t make it easy to love you, but I do. After all, some things can’t be explained. Love. When you know something is right, you just know.

***This is my first year of joining the A to Z Challenge and so I’ve decided to post randomly, as a way for new visitors to my blog to get to know me a little better. I look forward to discovering some interesting new blogs too.

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Blogging, Book Reviews, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights

Teaser Tuesday: The Icing on the Cake, #LoIsInDaBl

For this week’s

TEASER TUESDAY

I present to you, just days after Valentine’s Day, one of the sweetest, most romantic scenes I’ve ever read in literature:

***

Ginny looked up into Harry’s face, took a deep breath, and said, “Happy seventeenth.”

“Yeah … thanks.”

She was looking at him steadily; he however, found it difficult to look back at her; it was like gazing into a brilliant light.

“Nice view,” he said feebly, pointing toward the window.

She ignored this. He could not blame her.

“I couldn’t think what to get you,” she said.

“You didn’t have to get me anything.”

She disregarded this too.

“I didn’t know what would be useful. Nothing too big, because you wouldn’t be able to take it with you.”

He chanced a glance at her. She was not tearful; that was one of the many wonderful things about Ginny, she was rarely weepy. He had sometimes thought that having six brothers must have toughened her up.

She took a step closer to him.

“So then I thought, I’d like you to have something to remember me by, you know, if you meet some veela when you’re off doing whatever you’re doing.”

“I think dating opportunities are going to be pretty thin on the ground, to be honest.”

“There’s the silver lining I’ve been looking for,” shoe whispered, and then she was kissing him as she had never kissed him before, and Harry was kissing her back, and it was blissful oblivion, better than firewhisky; she was the only real thing in the world, Ginny, the feel of her, one hand at her back and one in her long, sweet-smelling hair–

The door banged open behind them and they jumped apart.

***

Was that more than a teaser?

I just love that scene, but one writing instructor I once had did not quite agree on it being one of the most romantic in all of literature.

🙂

I don’t know what page that would be in the print version, but in braille it comes from the final book in the Harry Potter series, (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Volume Two, Page 169).

It may have something to do with the moment I read it for the first time, the place I might have been in my life back then.

I was always looking, at the heart of it, for the love story in a novel. When I read Lord of the Rings for the first time, after watching the movies, I couldn’t wait and I asked a friend who loved the books if there was more of a particular romance between Sam and Rosie.

Of course, Lord of the Rings has its romantic themes, but it is an adventure fantasy story overall. Let’s just say, this male friend thought me a little nuts for only wanting this one small storyline when there was so much else going on in that world.

Well, Harry Potter is definitely not a romance novel and I am no longer a teenager, that girl who that’s all I read. I learned to love the fantasy and epic adventure genre for what it is and I love Harry Potter for so many of its themes, but this was just the icing on the already amazing cake.

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Blogging, Book Reviews, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights

Spotlight: Mamarazzi

Mamarazzi

By Brooke Williams

Release Date: September 11, 2015 from Prism Book Group

Order

HERE.

Danica Bennett isn’t sure what she hates more…her job or the fact that she’s good at it.  As one of the many Hollywood paparazzi, she lives her life incognito and sneaks around trying to get the best shot of the latest star.  When she is mistaken for an extra on a new, up and coming TV show, her own star rises and she becomes the one being photographed.  Add that to the fact that she’s falling for her co-star, Eliot Lane, and Danica is in a whole heap of trouble.

My Review:

Who is The Mamarazzi?

Who is the one behind the disguise?

Danica is doing what she can, taking pictures of celebrities, to make a living. Her first love is photography and she has big plans and dreams, but must support her sick mother. How can she come out from behind her disguise and be the daughter any mother would be proud of?

Eliot is the big star and he has his eyes on Danica, from the first moment she works as an extra on set of his new hit show.

Heat, sparks, and water. She is nervous to be around him and is pleased to find out he is a complete catch, unlike his co-star.

The two of them are powerless to fight their mutual attraction, as Eliot shows her the acting ropes, but her secret threatens to blow it all apart.

She must get the perfect shot. What is she willing to risk for that?

She discovers someone else’s secret and there is someone out to destroy any chance she might have for happiness with Eliot.

I read this story, in nearly one sitting. It is a sweet read and William’s writing style makes you route for Danica and Eliot, from that first connection on set.

Hollywood chews and spits out many, and it’s due to William’s writing and her love story, given to two deserving characters, that makes Mamarazzi stand out.

It’s a fabulous reveal of the hidden world of Hollywood paparazzi and with the twists and turns of a love story, put to the test.

Note from the Author on the book’s inspiration:

I’ve always been fascinated by the Hollywood life and the idea that “they” are different from “us.” The idea for Mamarazzi has been with me for a long time. I’m not even exactly sure when I came up with it, but in college, I had a screenwriting class and I had to write a portion of a screenplay. I wrote “Paparazzi,” which was the same general idea only with a male lead character. When I began writing romantic comedy, the idea came back to me and I decided to chance the main character to a female and call it “Mamarazzi.” I even had a naming contest so that facebook fans and blog readers could name the characters in the book. Every character in the novel is reader named and approved!

Overall, I wanted to examine what happens when you take someone from one side of the fence and plop them on the other side. In the end, famous or not, we’re all just people. And in this book, they all have secrets…

About the Author

Brooke Williams writes in a sleep-deprived state while her daughters nap. Her romantic comedy is best read in the same state. Brooke has twelve years of radio in her background, both behind the scenes and on the air. She was also a television traffic reporter for a short time despite the fact that she could care less about hair and make-up. Today, Brooke stays at home with her daughters and works as a freelance writer for a variety of companies. When she isn’t working for paying clients, she makes things up, which results in books like “Accept this Dandelion.”  Brooke is also the author of “Accept this Dandelion,” “Wrong Place, Right Time,” “Someone Always Loved You,”  “Beyond the Bars.” She plans to continue the Dandelion story into a series and looks forward to her first children’s book release “Baby Sheep Gets a Haircut” in June 2016. Brooke and her husband Sean have been married since 2002 and have two beautiful daughters, Kaelyn (5) and Sadie (nearly 2).

You can find her over at her website:

http://www.authorbrookewilliams.com/

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History, IN THE NEWS AND ON MY MIND, Memoir and Reflections, RIP, Spotlight Saturday

Love and Despair

Canada has lost two icons, in the last two weeks. This is my tribute to them both: Lois and Jonathan.

Lois Lilienstein, dies at age 78

Sharon, Lois, and Bram were a part of my childhood.

Sure, I wasn’t a huge fan of the giant, silent elephant, but I did watch the three performers and I liked their songs.

Somewhere in between Polka Dot Door and Today’s Special.

The Elephant Show was full of skits and songs and it was always there, seemingly just there, in the background of my early years.

It was comforting like home.

The theme song is unforgettable for anyone who has ever heard it.

“Love you in the morning and in the afternoon. Love you in the evening and underneath the moon.”

The folky sounding music they sang together made them some of the best children’s performers around. They volunteered for certain children’s events, such as appearing where I saw them, met them, and had my photo taken with them.

I was a teenager by this time, but my brother and I had both received kidney transplants at Sick Children’s Hospital in downtown Toronto.

We were at a celebratory event, one afternoon, in the hospital’s main atrium. We posed with Sharon, Lois, and Bram by the cake.

Then, as I grew, I’d long since outgrown kid’s shows and soon what became important to me was what made me proud to be Canadian, with the development of my love for my country’s literary history.

I was shocked, last week, when I first read, in my news feed for Facebook…
Jonathan Crombie, dies at age 48

This was the last thing I was expecting.

There’s always a certain obvious morbidity in my mind, as one celebrity dies and I already start thinking, I wonder who the next one will be to pass away.

Jonathan Crombie was only forty-eight and died, a few days before the official announcement, from a brain hemorrhage.

Right away I felt a sickening feeling inside.

He was Gilbert Blythe. He “was” the role. He WAS that character.

I knew the PBS mini series before I really read the books. It all came to life for me, on screen, with the descriptive video I received in the mail in the late nineties.

Most girls had their prince charming, Disney prince of their choice. I had Gil. He was what an ideal male would be. He became the ideal for me.

Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe always reminded me of my grandparents, right from the first time I became truly aware of their love story.

I never thought I would be writing about why this character means to me what he does, not for this reason. I had assumed it would come up eventually, here or somewhere else, but that I would talk about the significance of Anne and Gilbert or Gil himself, as an upbeat writing on my favourite literature.

I didn’t think, couldn’t predict I would be writing about what Jonathan’s role as Gil meant to me, not as a tribute to the life lived by the man behind the beloved Canadian literary character, at the time of his premature death.

But here we are.

I don’t know exactly what Jonathan felt about his time playing Gilbert. I would assume he realized what that role meant to people like me. I read he would often answer to “Gil”, but whether or not this is true I can not say.

I do know he played the role of Gilbert for all three movies. He started as a fairly young guy in the eighties.

He was the son of David Crombie, Mayor of Toronto, long before Ford would make the position famous for so many other things.

Jonathan performed on the stage, Shakespearean roles, at the Stratford Festival Theatre.

I wish I could have seen him in that role, as a bit of a variation from Montgomery’s character. Just a small variation of course.

Jonathan would return, years after his original debut as Gil, when the third Anne film was made, at the start of this new century.

It was a bit of a shock, to me in that moment, when I first saw him again. He was older, obviously, his voice having changed a fair bit from what I’d known it to sound like.

He pulled off a whole new, more serious role this time, going off to perform medical officer duty in a retelling, of sorts, of a story from World War I and I was newly impressed by where he would take that character.

It was a bit of a stretch from Montgomery’s original writing, but I wouldn’t read more of the books until several years later.

Of course, none of this would have happened if it weren’t for L.M.’s brilliant creation of the great love story of Gilbert and Anne, but Jonathan brought the character to life in ways I will never forget.

It was the way Crombie pulled off the deep and unwavering devotion and dedication to Anne and his pure love for her. I envied it. I only dreamt that anyone, in my real life, could or would ever love me like that.

Even as an old-fashioned story, theirs is a fictional love story that didn’t have lots of drama and back-and-forth, at least not for him. He played always his part, Gilbert Blythe, the cool, calm, and collected gentleman. The chivalrous doctor that once was a love-sick schoolboy.

Nothing, betrayed in that character, seemed to react. They took a sombre period in Canada’s history, now one hundred years ago, and they portrayed it, both Jonathan and Megan, and the rest of the cast, with grace and dignity, feeling and heart.

The tragic romance of doing the hard thing, the spectre of having to be separated, all coming alive from the pages of any history book I’ve ever read. A fictional story that I could, so easily, picture in real life.

Of course, I knew it to be a work of fiction, but Jonathan made me feel it in every line he spoke as Gilbert.

I wanted to include my favourite moment from his performance in Anne: The Continuing Story.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cr20pRzTiTc

I will return to this story, again and again, to always see him in this greatest of great roles.

Watching the above clip of their reunion always did bring tears to my eyes, caused the all-too familiar butterflies in my stomach when I immediately went to watch on hearing the sad news, caused my heart to race like always, and will forevermore stir a deep feeling of nostalgia that can hardly be explained through words.

It is why I believe in the art of a fictional performance, when in spite of all the silliness of what acting often is, sometimes an actor gets it right. Sometimes it isn’t silly or frivolous. It means something.

And so I dare to be so bold as to use a line from Montgomery’s books and from the films themselves, not in an attempt to be over-dramatic for the sake of it.

Anne Shirley said it first. I say it now.

I didn’t know him. I never had the chance to meet him in person, but I would have liked to tell him all this, if I had.

“In the depths of despair.”

His passing has caused a strange empty feeling in me since I heard he was gone for real.

From what I read, his organs were donated. This only makes me love him even more.

How many people get to mean the things he’s meant to people like me and to give others a second chance at life through the sudden end of his own?

RIP Jonathan, Gil.

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1000 Voices Speak For Compassion, History, Memoir and Reflections, RIP, Special Occasions

Ruby Red

Lady In Red, Chris DeBurgh, YouTube

I absolutely love the colour red. Scarlet. Ruby. I love it all. Passion, fiery, love.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

On this particular one I’m looking back:

one year,

five years, fifty.

***

I was nervous and excited, both all at once, as we drove to the college. I was taking the course online, Creative Writing, but I still had to show up and report to the Accessibility office to write the exams.

A grammar test, on my 26th birthday? I love writing but have never loved learning all the rules of grammar. This was no birthday present.

Along with the feelings of excitement at my birthday dinner, waiting for me on return from the dreaded grammar exam, there was something else: apprehension, but not at anything grammar related.

My grandfather had been ill for a while. As we drove we received a call on my phone that he wasn’t doing well at all. It all went downhill from there.

He had been on his own for nearly five whole years without her. I often wondered how he did it. I don’t mean how did he manage to survive and feed himself without her, but how does anyone truly go on without the one person they spent almost every moment with for over half a century?

Ruby red, like the jewel, rare and one-of-a-kind like she was to him.

She was his Ruby.

They had been married for fifty-five years and had been together for nearly sixty. On this Valentine’s Day and every Valentine’s Day since he died, I think about the meaning of this day.

He did fairly well on his own, at first, in that little house they shared for almost twenty of their married years together. It was the only house I remember them in. It was strange to suddenly go to visit him there, to see how he was making do with looking after himself because she once did so much, but they had been a team.

He cooked his meals and kept himself busy with friends and family. We spent time with him as often as we possibly could, but she was gone and he and the rest of us, we missed her.

After five years of being a widow, he had suffered multiple strokes, his eyesight worsening with each one.

After sharing a driver’s education manual with his sixteen-year-old granddaughter, he passed his renewal driver’s test on his eightieth birthday, but he wouldn’t drive for long after that.

By this particular February, his last, he had been living in a retirement home for a while. He’d given up his little house he’d shared with her and seemed to settle in rather nicely in his new place of residence.

He had a spacious private room and the small table and chairs from their house had been placed by his one window. HE still liked to sit there and watch the birds and the squirrels, one of his favourite pastimes.

Occasionally he would still, even after a few strokes, take his cane and walk around the neighbourhood he now lived in.

I enjoyed having him there on Christmas morning once or twice and the drives out to pick him up for the day, for dinner, they were always enjoyable. He made the time pass with his stories of visitors he’d had that week or jokes he liked to tell.

But now here we were, on my birthday, and only days away from Valentine’s Day and things weren’t looking promising. He was having fluid issues with his heart and I had a feeling that this could be it for him and for our time with him.

It was strange, seeing him lying there. I can’t even really recall the last time I spoke to him and what our conversation was. That makes me feel deeply sad because I usually pride myself on my dependable memory, especially for things like this.

All I do remember is leaving the hospital: on a cold, winter night. All the memories I do have of him and hospitals where he actually was somewhat his usual self, they are blended and muddled.

On one of the last days we visited, but he wasn’t at all like he used to be, no going back.

I remember the sound his breathing made, gasping for breath, as we sat tensely, tapping our feet in that small hospital room. I could feel a cold coming on, a sore throat, as I sat and waited…for what?

For the end?

My parents kept more of a vigil by his bedside, along with my uncles.

I went on with my life, in a strange way, as we all unwillingly waited for the inevitable. I celebrated Valentine’s Day the night before, by going to a movie with my boyfriend; all normal Valentine’s Day stuff, but my heart just wasn’t in it.

I awoke, on Sunday morning, February 14th, and got ready to go out for breakfast when my parents arrived to bring the bad news we all knew was coming.

HE was gone. He had passed away four years and six months after my grandmother, on Valentine’s Day and on my cousin’s birthday, missing mine by four days.

Of course it really didn’t make a difference, but whatever you believe, I choose to believe he left to be with his love, not wishing to spend even one more Valentine’s Day without her.

On this day I choose, not to focus on my own heart and loss or lack of love, but to focus on the love they shared.

In the end, with all the red roses and the red hearts of Valentine’s Day out there, it was his Ruby that he wanted to spend Valentine’s Day with.

***

I am a storyteller, a lover of stories and yes, even romance. I like to look past all the commercialization of this day and remember their love for one another and how they grew up together: in a sense, how they became the love story they’ve come to symbolize for me.

It will always be a romance story in my head, when I think of the two of them.

Picture a little girl, age four, with pigtails. At least, that’s how my grandfather used to tell the story.

Then picture two boys, age eight, one of them being this little girl’s older brother. The two friends are playing together, leaving the little girl to herself.

Jump ahead twelve or so years and that little girl in pigtails is now sixteen and her brother’s friend is twenty.

They date for four years and then are married.

Five children, twenty-one grandchildren, and several great-grandchildren and counting later.

I think of those two little children, and how they met and how their love grew, when I need to believe in the power and the magic of love. It’s on days like today that I need this image the most and it makes me smile.

So today I wish to recognize the man we lost that day and to honour the love of a lifetime: better, to me, than any fictional love story I’ve yet read. I hope I can find a love even half as devoted and true as theirs.

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Memoir and Reflections, Poetry, Special Occasions, Writing

Sherry Baby

Two songs in particular come to mind with Sherry in the title and written about a girl just like my friend: “Sherry Baby” by Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons and “Oh Sherry” by Steve Perry. There are very few people I’ve known who stick out in my mind like this particular bride. There are a few girls I have known who have seemed free to me, free spirits who were always attracting people to them with their bright sparkling personalities. This bride always seemed like this, almost like a female super hero who could take on the world and did.

This was unlike any other wedding I had ever attended, a good thing for sure. The real thing was done at City Hall, but a small gathering of family and friends were invited to help celebrate the happy couple, a real life love story to my wild imagination and literary mind. I was lucky to be one of these select few.

I grew up just outside of a small subdivision and, as a child, I was constantly looking in on this place, just up the road. I went to school with the kids here and became friends with many of them. I suppose it wasn’t much different for them than it was for my sister and brother. They pretty much grew up with me, having a blind girl in their class from the very beginning, unlike the kids I would meet at the school we would go on to attend later on. These kids knew me and accepted me, almost from the beginning.

I was never lacking in a friend or two for very long, a bit of a rarity for visually impaired kids in their neighbourhood schools. Many had trouble adjusting and socializing, not meeting and making friends easily. I would meet many of these kids and we would go on to become good friends.

This subdivision had a general store, a baseball diamond, a church, and a grammar school – a perfect start to introduce me to school and socializing. Sherry was one of these good friends. We started going to school together in kindergarten, but it was first grade when we started spending any real time together.

I found myself, the other night, sitting at a table and reminiscing with several of these children, all grown up now. There were inside jokes and old stories, lots of laughs and I felt a nostalgia I couldn’t quite put my finger on – a past long gone now and a simpler time. I was lucky enough to sit in on this remembering and, all those years ago now, on the lives of these people. I would go over to one of their houses and inevitably their neighbours would be other kids we went to school with. We would all play together.

The bride grew up with boys all around her. She had no sisters and her next door neighbours were a family of only boys. She always played with the boys and became one of the boys. I and some of the other girls at school were happy to fill that void; I was lucky. I witnessed and was just happy to tag along, to look in on the many adventures rehashed at that table the other night.

We’re all grown up now of course, but some things never really change. Sometimes the more things change the more they remain the same. Sure, there has been years of education, marriages have taken place, and babies are now the order of the day, but these people are all the same friends and classmates I once knew, including Sherry. We are adults and that’s hard to believe when I looked back on all the time spent with these people when we were just children.

I was honoured to receive a personal invite to this particular wedding celebration. I recently reconnected with Sherry over our love of writing. I looked to her, respecting her views and opinions, to read over the novel I started last fall. She provided essential feedback and a boost of inspiration and motivation. I find inspiration through witnessing her unique brand of creativity. Our little gathering, a dinner after Christmas, allowed us to get to know each other again, just a little. So many years passed and she had found her partner in crime. They make beautiful music together and are taking on the world together.

Listening to her speech I heard her say so much, but it was in her personal choice of every song her guests listened or danced to that I learned the most and felt the most about who Sherry was now and what this all meant to her. This was the soundtrack of her life and future with her husband. All the years we lost touch I could feel being filled in by listening to the songs she chose. Every song had personal and private meaning to her and I could relate with this more than anything because I would want to do the exact same thing. Music, memories, and love are so intertwined to someone as creative and artistic as Sherry and to me as well.

She’d hand-picked every guest in attendance and every song to be played over the evening. Rumour has it she spent ten hours making up the song list and proud of it (her new husband thinking her a little crazy and loving her for it I’m sure), choosing carefully each and every song for its meaning and dedicating specific songs for specific people. Even I got a song. I was touched to hear of the Lana Del Ray she dedicated to me. The music was different from that played at the usual wedding reception with its hired DJ (no Macarena to be heard). The music ranged from 50s and 60s rock and roll to 90s rap: The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Elvis, Frankie Valli, David Bowie, Neil Young, and Paul Simon. Then there was some Lauren Hill, and a little Gangster’s Paradise by Coolio thrown in there for good measure and Onto the most famous artists of today such as Lorde. Everywhere around me there was plenty of laughter, talk and dancing and I felt at home.

This was a wedding celebration of uniqueness, just like the bride herself. It was full of personality, just like the bride. It felt intimate and fun, fun like she always was. In inviting me to her celebration she did more than she could possibly realize. Listening and witnessing the love she has found and seeing all those people who love and care about her there to celebrate this love I felt better than I had in months. She gave me hope and showed me that love does exist and that when it’s right you know it.

Sherry Baby, Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons

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